If Steve Earle isn't performing, he's probably writing

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Aug. 26—details

Steve Earle & The Dukes

—7:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28

—Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W. San Francisco St.

—Tickets start at $42, check for availability; 505-988-1234, lensic.org/events. Masks are encouraged.

If you happen to glimpse snow-bearded country singer-songwriter Steve Earle typing away on his cellphone during his upcoming visit to Santa Fe, don't assume he's texting a friend back home in New York City.

He might be writing a song.

Earle, who plays Sunday, Aug. 28, at the Lensic Performing Arts Center with his backing band The Dukes, still uses an acoustic guitar to write music. But when lyrical inspiration strikes — and it strikes daily — the native Texan reaches for his iPhone.

"I mean, Steve Jobs got me from beyond the grave," the three-time Grammy winner jokes, revealing the distinctive twang that punctuates his music. "I always have the latest, fastest iPhone and the latest, fastest computer and usually two or three iPads."

Earle, a 67-year-old veteran of about 25 solo albums and collaborations and tens of thousands of miles on the road, isn't the typical tech geek. And because he has seen so much of the United States while touring — including many places multiple times — his perspective is far from typical too.

"Most people are like deer: they spend their whole lives within about a 20-mile radius at best," he says. "I've never been that way. My family moved around one region, but we moved around a lot."

Seeing a cross section of the country prevents him from falling into the intellectual trap of making assumptions about people he would never otherwise encounter, Earle says.

He hitchhiked to Nashville, Tennessee, at age 19 from San Antonio, Texas. and didn't have a reliable car until his mid-20s.

"I'm a guitar player rather than a piano player strictly because I couldn't hitchhike with a piano," Earle says.

Lyrics from the title track on his first album, 1986's Guitar Town, may lend some perspective as to why he left home.

Nothin' ever happened 'round my hometown

And I ain't the kind to just hang around

But I heard someone callin' my name one day

And I followed that voice down the lost highway

The song, which Earle still performs live, was nominated for a Grammy under the category Best Country Song. Its parent album also was nominated, for Best Country Vocal Solo Performance.

Earle has been nominated 14 times since.

His three wins: The Revolution Starts ... Now, as Best Contemporary Folk Album, in 2005; Washington Square Serenade, Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album, 2008; and Townes, Best Contemporary Folk Album, 2010.

In a review of the 30th anniversary edition of Guitar Town, which was remastered and included bonus tracks, the Austin Chronicle in Texas called the music "the kind of country tough enough to attract bikers, angry enough to rile punks, and literate enough with swaggering wordplay to distance itself from anything coming out of Nashville at the time while still remaining true to tradition."

As with many artists who stop in Santa Fe, Earle's date here is sandwiched by engagements in far larger cities, such as Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. He says he has performed at the Lensic several times, as well as the New Mexico School for the Deaf, not to mention numerous times in Albuquerque. He has friends in Santa Fe, he says, and learned a valuable life lesson in Northern New Mexico.

"I learned to fish with a fly rod in Taos, and that was a hardcore place to learn," he says.

It also was a long time ago. Earle can't recall how many years.

"I don't kill anything anymore," he says. "I'm still carnivorous, but other people do my killing. I might occasionally humiliate a fish before I put it back in the water."

Earle identifies politically as a socialist and leans left on most issues; he's a longtime advocate of ending capital punishment.

"My job during the Obama administration was, when people were calling him a socialist, I said, 'No, wait a minute. I'm a socialist. I promise you he's not even close,'" Earle says.

He also says he understands that some people's lives didn't improve when Barack Obama was president, which affected how they voted.

"People assume that they don't have anything in common with other people, and they assume that everybody that voted for Donald Trump is an [expletive] or stupid, and that's simply not true."

Getting back to technology, Earle says there's another benefit to writing lyrics on his phone: He can always read what he has typed.

"I don't lose it like I used to," he says. "I used to be a writer with bad handwriting, and, for the first part of my career, I had bad handwriting on drugs. So I lost a lot of stuff."

Earle lost a record contract in 1991 amid the throes of heroin addiction, and in 1994, he spent time in jail for failing to appear in court on a heroin-related charge. His recovery journey isn't featured heavily in the music he has released since, but Earle drew upon his addiction experience as an actor in the acclaimed HBO crime drama The Wire. He portrayed Walon, a drug counselor and recovering addict, and his music was featured in the Baltimore-based TV show.

"It didn't require much acting [for me] to play the redneck recovering addict. So it was pretty easy. That was David Simon's idea, for me to be an actor, anyway," Earle says, referring to the show's creator, who also is a friend. Simon also created the New Orleans-based drama Treme, which featured Earle as wise street musician Harley Watt.

Earle says he plans to never live more than one commercial plane ride away from New York City again. Informed that Santa Fe is more than one flight away, he laughs.

"You know, I'm gonna go get a big Christmas bowl at the Plaza Café and then play the Lensic across the street," he says. "It'll be great."